ALHAMBRA, Calif. (CNS) - A South Pasadena man who allegedly killed his 5-year-old son amid a bitter custody battle with the boy's mother pleaded not guilty Monday to a murder charge.
Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $10 million bail pending his next court appearance Aug. 16, when a date will be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence for him to stand trial.
Andressian was arrested June 23 in Las Vegas. He waived extradition and was returned to the Southland Friday to face the murder charge stemming from the death of his son, Aramazd Andressian Jr., whose body was found Friday near the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area in Santa Barbara County, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Andressian, who was wearing an anti-suicide vest in court, could face up to 25 years to life in state prison if convicted.
"He is wearing a suicide vest," his attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez, said. "He's being evaluated by (the) L.A. sheriff's department. (As) part of that, they've taken the precaution to make sure ... he isn't a danger to himself.
"... Obviously my client is dealing with this and being accused of murdering his son and the fact that his son's body was found this weekend," he said.
Rodriguez did not answer questions about media reports indicating that Andressian may have told sheriff's detectives where to find his son's body.
Rodriguez met with his client for the first time in jail on Saturday, hours before telling reporters that "there's been a rush to judgment" in the case. He said recent developments have been hard on Andressian Sr.
"To be in custody, to be accused of something like this, is something that would break anyone," he said Saturday.
Andressian's son was last seen at 1 a.m. April 21 leaving Disneyland with his father, who was found unconscious at Arroyo Seco Park in South Pasadena the next day and was unable to account for his son's whereabouts.
Los Angeles County sheriff's homicide Lt. Joe Mendoza alleged the killing was "pre-planned" and took place between the time Andressian and his son left Disneyland and the father was discovered unconscious at the South Pasadena park.
Andressian told investigators he arrived at the park with his son and waited for the golf course to open, and admitted ingesting prescription medication that was not prescribed to him, Mendoza said. Andressian has been uncooperative and gave false information to investigators since he fell under suspicion, Mendoza said.
The suspect said he did not remember what happened to his child or any details that were useful in locating the boy, according to Mendoza, who said a prescription bottle was found inside Andressian's car, which was doused with gasoline inside and out.
Mendoza alleged that Andressian planned his son's murder to get back at his estranged wife during a "tumultuous" divorce and then tried to commit suicide -- before heading to Las Vegas to prepare to flee the country.
The investigation into the boy's disappearance included several weeks of surveillance, during which the suspect "significantly" changed his appearance, acted in a manner inconsistent with the behavior of a grieving parent and appeared to be planning to flee to a country from which he could not be extradited, Mendoza said.
Sheriff's officials have not provided specifics on any new evidence explaining the suspect's arrest. He was originally arrested in Los Angeles County shortly after his son went missing, but was later released for lack of evidence.
An extradition hearing last Tuesday in Las Vegas cleared the way for Andressian's return to the Southland. At that hearing, Andressian, sporting dyed, light-colored hair, smiled and joked as he told a judge that he would not resist being sent back to Los Angeles.
"If California wants me they can come get me ...," he said.
The search for the boy spanned several Southern California counties. Authorities focused on the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area because Andressian Sr. told them he took the boy there the day after the Disneyland trip.
Ed Winter, assistant chief of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, said an autopsy would be conducted on the boy early this week. Winter also said tests would have to be conducted before his office officially identifies the body, but sheriff's detectives believe it is Andressian Jr.